*Now, this is the part of Shprockets where we dance. Click to see a YouTube video copy of SNL’s Sprockets Sketch, circa…um…a long time ago. Maybe 1990.
The second day of school continued to be more exciting than the first. After the degel experience, I trotted off to Introduction to Rabbinic Literature, a group tutorial. The sign-up sheet said something to the affect of: this class will be taught in German, unless there is one English speaker who signs up, and then everybody will hate her because the class defaults to English instruction. This may or may not be exactly how Professor Shprockets* phrased it, but that’s how it felt.
I tried tracking down this professor in vain, as I felt desperately needed by a friend in trouble. Sadly, however, this professor is not listed on any of the Hebrew U search engines. Not by first name, not by last name, not by nickname (and this was before I deemed him Professor Shprockets). Nothing. I was starting to believe that this class at 16:30 just wasn’t going to happen, because the professor clearly doesn’t exist.
I knew I couldn’t leave school, though, because on the off chance that this professor proved to exist, they would prance along with their Herr Mishnah this and their Fraulein Bibel that, and leave me in the dust. So, in I walked to my class, at 16:30 / 4:30 PM (Something not lost in translation! Whee!), to find that it was me, the professor (who looks 25 but is at least in his 40s), and the many Aryan faces of the German theological students’ study abroad program. That’s correct, kids…right here in Jerusalem, Sara Beth is studying the words of Talmud, Midrash and Torah with the future priests and ministers of Deutchland. Do NOT tell my grandmother.
I did learn from them, though. I learned that German teaching methods lends classes to long pauses (or maybe that’s so they can translate to English in their heads first?), and that when the Swiss kid reads the letter “v” it sounds like a “w” in the most endearing way. I also learned that the Fraulein next to me hates me and my lack of German language knowledge. I also learned that Europeans should just get over their sexy musk, or whatever it is they think they smell like, and get some deodorant. It’s unholy to study the Torah in such smelly conditions. Really.
It’s been two weeks since I wrote the above, and two weeks of Shprockets have gone by. Each week, the class gets better, and I enjoy discussing Torah, etc., with my classmates and professor. I have learned some more cultural things, such as:
1. I don’t know if it’s just Professor Shprockets, or if it’s a German thing, but there are really long, uncomfortable pauses as he waits for us to pipe up and say something. It’s sooo awkward.
2. Apparently they all say “W” instead of “V.” It makes me giggle…I can’t stop it. I’m so embarrassing.
3. At the end of the lecture, everybody knocks on the tabletop, basically applauding the professor. I think I love this.
My classmates are getting used to me and to speaking English. They’ve taken to asking me to translate. Today, I explained the difference between a hearing and a trial (Remember that time I wanted to go to law school? Hah!). I also defined the worst English verb ever: to cleave . It is an antonym of itself. That was fun to explain. One of my classmates went shopping in the Old City and bought himself Fullah sheets (They’re pink and Barbie-esque, but she’s wearing a full-on head covering. Read the article. It's totally worth reading. Very interesting. Also fun is this post on MJL). Another classmate took down my email to invite me to a birthday party for another classmate and Professor Shprockets. So, I’m starting to make friends.
And, as I measure my success in life, so do I in Shprockets: Today in class, we studied the first Chapter of Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the (Jewish) Father/Sages. The fourth pasuk (passage) warns against talking to women, and later, when we were discussing another pasuk, Swiss and I started talking at the same time.
I said, “Go first,” to which he replied, “no, you are a woman. You go first.” (That’s the German-to-English equivalent of “Ladies first!”)
My reply? “But if I’m a woman, you shouldn’t be listening to me talk at all.”
And the class laughed.
I’m making friends with Shprockets.
This post, like the last one, is a message for peace and understanding in this world.